There is a new green AP holder in town called Premier Hybrid Cars Sdn Bhd, who claims to be the the first hybrid distributor of hybrid cars in Malaysia, a fact that is technically untrue because Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd is actually the first hybrid car distributor in Malaysia, selling two generation of the Honda Civic Hybrids now.

Premier Hybrid Cars Sdn Bhd will begin its offering with a three-model line-up, all from Toyota Motors. The three cars consist of the Toyota Harrier Hybrid (actually the Lexus RX 400h), the Toyota Alphard Hybrid, and the Toyota Estima Hybrid.

Lexus RX 400h

The Lexus RX 400h, or the Toyota Harrier Hybrid as Premier Hybrid Cars calls it is powered by a 3.3 litre V6 (3MZ-FE) producing 211 horsepower and 288Nm of torque on its own. The electric component consists of two electric motors, one for each axle. The front axle motor is more powerful, producing 167hp and 333Nm of torque, while the rear axle motor produces 68hp and 130Nm of torque.

Combined output of all motors adds up to 272hp – you can’t just add the horsepower figures for all three power devices together to get peak achievable horsepower. The car is driven via a CVT gearbox and runs on front wheel drive most of the time, with the rear electric motor kicking in only under full acceleration or when the front wheels lose traction. The petrol engine can be completely switched off so that the RX 400h runs on electric motors only for smooth and eerily silent operation.

Toyota Alphard Hybrid

The Toyota Alphard Hybrid is not the latest generation as it does not have a hybrid model. The model with a hybrid engine is the previous generation which we are seeing all over our roads now. Its hybrid system is quite similiar to the one in the Camry Hybrid, using a 2.4 litre Atkinson cycle engine combined with a CVT gearbox and an electric motor, except that in the Alphard there are two electric motors with the additional one on the rear axle. Toyota calls the resulting four-wheel drive system E-Four. Total power output is 131 PS from the gasoline engine, 17 PS from the front motor and 25 PS from the rear motor.

Toyota Estima Hybrid

The Toyota Estima Hybrid is available with a similiar hybrid powertrain as the Alphard Hybrid, except the 2.4 litre 2AZ-FXE engine makes 150 PS instead of 131 PS and a peak torque of 190Nm. A 143 PS electric motor with 270Nm of torque powers the front wheels, while the rear axle is driven by a 68 PS electric motor with 130Nm of torque. The maximum output of the system is 190 PS, and like all Toyota hybrids use a CVT gearbox.

Premier Hybrid Cars is run by people with political connections. Its chairman is Datuk Shahrin Zahari, a 28 year old EXCO member of Putera UMNO and son of the late Datuk Zahari Wahab of the Ranhill Group. The company’s executive director is 22 year old Nik Iruwan Nik Izani, supposedly a racecar driver and son of Nik Izani Nik Ibrahim, senior Vice-President of FMCG division in Mofaz group.

A quick check with the SSM shows that Premier Hybrid Cars Sdn Bhd was established on the 3rd of January 2008 with a paid up capital of RM2. Its shareholders are Nik Iruwan and his father Nik Izani with 1 out of 2 shares each.

Yes, we all know that they are somebodies, that’s why they managed to get these new set of Open APs. They currently have about 20 on hand, but once those are finished they can apply for more up to 1,200 for this year. But one good thing for the public may just come out of this. The company is currently lobbying for the government to drop taxes for it hybrid cars to encourage the usage of the relatively fuel efficient cars. We could see something like this happening when the Budget 2009 is unveiled as we all know that when the people lobby, it falls to deaf ears but when connected people lobby things happen.

If this happens and the reduced taxes applies to all hybrid cars (instead of just Premier Hybrid Cars Sdn Bhd’s cars), some of us may be able to buy the Civic Hybrid from Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd at reduced prices than the current price which is about the same as an Accord 2.4. Cheaper price tags on these luxury Toyotas don’t really mean a thing at all for the people that actually have trouble paying the new fuel prices.

Anyway, I would like to advise people that hybrid powertrains are very complicated things… it would be a good idea to get them from principals who can competently back your warranty and maintenance. They will have better access to technical knowledge and spareparts inventory.